Hearing set on open records bill

Hearing set on open records bill

August 5th, 2011 by Associated Press in News

Sam Olens

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

ATLANTA - Attorney General Sam Olens said Thursday everyone should be subject to Georgia's Open Records Act.

Yet a broad bill he's proposing to strengthen the state's law would allow Georgia lawmakers to remain exempt from turning over emails and other documents, as well as certain financial records.

Olens, appearing at an Atlanta Press Club event, said his overall goal is to offer a bill that will strengthen the law but also can pass the Legislature.

"My goal is to pass the bill," the Republican said. "I'm not putting myself out there for failure."

State lawmakers have made themselves exempt from Open Records Act, which covers most other parts of state and local governments.

Elected last year, Olens has made government transparency a key issue.

The bill he is pushing sharply would increase fines for violations of Georgia's open records laws and place new restrictions on officials who don't hold meetings in public.

Olens said while most public attention is on the state's Open Records Act, which compels government officials to hand over certain documents, "most of the abuses occur with the Open Meetings Act."

Olens also said he was open to considering an administrative appeals procedure similar to one that exists in Connecticut.

"Conceptually it's an excellent idea, the problem, of course, is the passage," he said.

The administrative process sets up a review for those denied access to records, giving the public an opportunity to appeal before being forced to resort to the court system.

A legislative hearing on the bill has been set for Aug. 30, during the special session where legislators will tackle redistricting. A vote on the bill isn't expected until next year.